Season of Darkness by Maureen Jennings. McClelland & Stewart 2011.
Maureen Jennings is best known for her Detective Murdoch series, which was developed for T.V. as the Murdoch Mysteries, starring Yannick Bisson as William Murdoch. The T.V. show has been very successful and is slated to enter its 5th season.
The T.V. version spelled the end of Jennings Murdoch books, however, and she moved on to new characters. I enjoyed Does Your Mother Know? and The K Handshape, featuring Christine Morris.
In Season of Darkness, Jennings debuts Detective Inspector Tom Tyler of the Shropshire constabulary. The story is set during World War II, after the Dunkirk evacuation, when England was gripped by the threat of a German invasion. Even Tyler’s quiet backwater town has been impacted by the War. An internment camp for German nationals is located nearby at Prees Heath. and in the rural countryside, young women from many backgrounds have been recruited to help farmers raise the food needed to feed the nation. When one of the Land Army girls is found murdered, Tyler is called upon to investigate. Before he can make headway with her case, a second young woman disappears. What is going on? Are the murders connected? Is someone stalking young women? Is a German paratrooper hiding in the countryside?
Tyler’s own life is in turmoil. His distant relationship with his wife has been further diminished by the return of Tom’s long-lost childhood sweetheart to the district. His son is home, severely traumatized by his experiences at Dunkirk, and his daughter is unhappy about her own circumstances, working for her grandfather.
In Season of Darkness, Jennings does an excellent job of recreating the World War II era and the turmoil it caused even in rural regions. There are plenty of interesting details about the Land Army, internment camps and other features of the War years. Tom Tyler is an engaging character in his own right, with his own personal tragedies. In the end, Tyler’s personal and professional lives come together in the solution to the mystery.